Northrop & Johnson talks to Zoran Selakovic from leading Non-Governmental Organization YachtAid Global on their efforts to involve the superyacht industry in humanitarian and conservation aid around the world.
Can you describe YachtAid Global in just one sentence?
YachtAid Global provides unified humanitarian and conservation aid across global coastal communities.
In your view what is the most pressing issue facing our ocean, both immediately and in the longer term?
Climate change presents the greatest threat to ocean health. It is making the ocean hotter, promoting acidification, and making it harder to breathe in them by reducing dissolved oxygen levels.
There are many organizations advocating for ocean conservation. What makes YachtAid Global different?
We focus on the unified approach to ocean conservation – integrating humanitarian and conservation elements. Often humanitarian aspects are left out in pure conservation initiatives, resulting in missed opportunities to change people’s behaviors and to provide benefits for the coastal communities which would motivate them to advance conservation objectives and serve as stewards of ocean.
The yachting industry is inextricably connected to the ocean. What more do you believe that our industry should be doing to promote ocean health?
We should be investing into the education and solutions that protect and preserve the ocean across global coastal communities.
Can yachting ever really be sustainable?
Yes, but only with a very deliberate and focused action that encompasses the entire lifecycle of a yacht – with greater emphasis on yacht operations than currently performed.
How can yacht owners and charterers be an ally in your work?
Yacht owners are in a unique position to set focus and vision for their yachting program, emphasizing corporate social responsibility which empowers yacht captains and crews to participate across our programs. The owner’s contributions and support could also make a direct and measurable impact across coastal communities – even a modest contribution goes a long way. Similarly, charterers who enjoy some of the amazing cruising grounds could consider adding a few hours in one afternoon to join us in a specific initiative in order to experience the local community and culture in a direct and authentic way. Their contribution towards our work across the communities that they visit and enjoy can also go a long way in improving the sustainability of yachting and improve quality of lives for the residents of those communities that host us.
How do you believe that we as individuals can contribute to sustain and protect our ocean?
Small actions add up – and multiply. From not using single use-plastics (or plastics at all) to being aware of how we consume food (where it came from, how it was brought to us, etc.).
How has the pandemic affected your work from an operational and funding point of view?
The pandemic has affected our work significantly, especially in the first year. Since then, we have adapted our operations to be effective and efficient in the new world. Funding was definitely challenged as well – but we’re finding ways to evolve our business development strategies and continue to improve regardless of our current environment and circumstances affected by the pandemic.
Do you think governments are using Covid as an excuse to push ocean conservation to the bottom of their to-do list?
We don’t have any data to cite on this, but if we had to answer it – our answer would be no. Governments have been pushing ocean conservation toward the bottom of their to-do lists for a while – with the private sector stepping in to fill in some of the gaps.
What do you look forward to achieving with YachtAid Global over the next 12 months?
As an organization with a wider mission to provide unified humanitarian, conservation, and disaster relief aid across global coastal communities – we will be standing by ready to engage in times of severe disasters that strike remote coastal communities.
We also have a number of active programs across regions (a public library and a sailing and swimming school in the Galapagos, clean water access across Mexico, Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Philippines, education programs in the Caribbean, marine life, ocean research and conservation across Pacific and Atlantic regions – to mention a few) where we hope visiting yachts will engage with us in order to experience local culture while supporting the work that makes these communities more resilient, sustainable, and improves the quality of life of those residents.
How is YachtAid Global working to reduce plastics in the ocean?
During disaster relief and recovery operations we use yachts to produce and deliver water thus avoiding the need for a large number of plastic containers for water. In non-disaster times we work with communities to setup clean water depots which provide clean water access reducing the need for use of plastic bottles and containers. Many of our humanitarian initiatives have conservation components built in. For example, the public library we’re running at the Galapagos has many conservation education and how-to workshops, and the sailing and swimming school has hands-on lessons on reusables.
Is there one person/ initiative in the yachting arena that you would like to highlight here?
We are working on launching a sailing and swimming school in the Galapagos across all three main islands – San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. This school will provide a way for the local youth to learn to be water-safe (swimming), as well as basic sailing and seamanship. Additionally, the school will connect the local youth with the ocean and their environment, teaching them hands-on about the protection and conservation of the ocean and their home islands. This is a good example of how YachtAid Global strives to carry out unified humanitarian and conservation programs, which improve the lives of local residents across global coastal communities, while making the ocean conservation a natural fit and part of the life for both current and future generations.
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